Year 1 of the Joe Moorhead era is in the books. Well, the regular season is anyway, and the Bulldogs finished with a solid 8-4 (4-4) record.
It hasn’t been a perfect year by any stretch, but any time you win at least half your conference games in the toughest division in football, beat a couple of Top 25 teams and absolutely embarrass your in-state rival 35-3, you can generally be satisfied with the season. And considering how well recruiting is going, there’s even more reason for optimism.
Before we officially flip the calendar to 2019, though, there’s still a bowl game to be played. Unfortunately, it’s probably unrealistic to dream of a New Year’s 6 Bowl, but as the top-ranked 4-loss team in the country, the Bulldogs will still find themselves in a solid bowl game.
Here are the three best bowl options for the Bulldogs, and it’s not based solely on prestige of the bowl. Instead, it’s an amalgamation of location, weather, likely opponents, etc.
3. Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, Charlotte, N.C.
I know, the name of it is uninspiring. It’s hardly the bowl game that teams aspire to play in at the start of the season. But guess what: There are far worse places to go to see a football game than in Charlotte.
It’s a fun city to visit is the bottom line, and it’s got an easy airport to fly into. Check out the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Take the kids to the Discovery Place. And if you’re trying to get your party on, head down to the Epicentre. The best part of all of this is that the stadium is right downtown — sorry, Uptown — so there’s plenty of stuff to do before and after the game, all within walking distance. And when you’re ready to wash the sins from the night before and thank the Good Lord for the bowl win, head to the Billy Graham Library to soak in some gospel.
2. Music City Bowl, Dec. 28, Nashville
I mean, c’mon. It’s Nashville. Who doesn’t want to go to Nashville? Aside from New Orleans, New York and Montreal, it’s arguably the most fun city in North America. No, the Music City Bowl isn’t an historically elite or prestigious bowl, but the location is remarkably desirous. Because think, you’re not going to want to travel all the way to bowl game unless it’s either A) a massive bowl game or B) there’s a lot to do before and after the game in the surrounding area.
Having a bowl game in Nashville is an easy selling point for fans who are on the fence about whether to go to the game. Get there a day or two before the game, check out the city, go to some bars, listen to some great music, then go to the game, watch the Bulldogs thump their opponent with their ridiculous defense, then go out for more partying afterwards to celebrate the “W.” The NHL Predators are in town, too, something you can’t get in Mississippi. And if you’re really feeling saucy, stick around until the 30th and watch the Titans take on the Colts to satiate your NFL needs.
1. Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, Orlando
The Citrus Bowl, in what for many years was known as the Capital One Bowl, has traditionally been known as the best bowl game outside of the Playoff rotation bowls. It’s a New Year’s Day bowl, so you know it’s good. And if the Bulldogs do get selected for the Citrus Bowl, it’ll be their first appearance, so there’s a bit of an historic aspect.
Even better, there’s a very good chance they’ll play against a Big Ten opponent, and there’s few things in life as enjoyable as watching the boys from down south whoop up on the Big Ten. Man, can you imagine what the Bulldogs defense would do against a Big Ten offense? Good grief.
One particularly intriguing aspect would be if they get paired with Penn State, where Joe Moorhead was coaching the two years before taking over in Starkville. The Nittany Lions have one of the very few offenses in the Big Ten that can actually move the ball thanks to the system Moorhead left in place, and his intimate knowledge of their personnel would no doubt come in handy.